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I’m French and am thinking of doing a masters in management (MiM) course abroad to get some international experience. Would you recommend that I go to the UK, or further afield like Asia?
The first thing to think about is language. English is the language of business and it would be good if in your time at business school you learnt to speak it really well. Although the Asian schools will teach in English, it might be better to study somewhere people talk the language like natives. However, more important is to decide why you want international experience. If it’s for the fun of it, then you should go to whichever place you think you think would be most enjoyable to live in. Whether you think it’s the UK or Asia – I can’t answer that one for you. But if it is because you expect to spend your working life being internationally mobile, flitting around the world for the rest of your career, then I’d go for Asia. It is not only where the future is, it is increasingly where the present is, too.
I like the curriculum at a smaller business school but am I better off going to a bigger-brand school with more of a reputation?
Yes, I’m afraid you are. The point of parting with all the money that a MiM costs, is that the qualification looks good on your calling card. The bigger the brand, the better it looks, so it is always a good investment to go for the biggest brand you can afford. Future employers will not give a fig for which curriculum you studied. It is better to be a little bored for a year or two and emerge marketable, than to have a more interesting time and emerge with no one wanting to know you.
I’m entering the final year of an undergraduate degree. Now the economy is recovering, should I do a MiM next, or should I get a job and get some work experience first?
You should get some experience first. Definitely. Once you know what working – and managing – is really like, you will get far more out of what you go on to study at business school. You’ll also be closer in age to fellow students, almost all of whom will have also spent a few years as corporate wage slaves. And if you play your cards well, you might even be able to get your employer to pay your fees. Equally, it is perfectly possible that you will land on your feet in the job market and prosper at work so that you decide that you neither want nor need to go to business school at all.
A friend who recently completed a MiM course reports that a few people in her study group were obnoxious. If I get into a similar situation, what can I do to head that off?
You can’t do anything to head them off. The most successful tricks are being good at your own work, and behaving in an aloof – though not hostile – way towards them. There are always obnoxious people around, and in a competitive business school there will be slightly more than average – plenty of people will be longing to see you fall flat on your face. The only thing to be done is to make yourself immune to whatever they dish up for you. It is part of learning how to survive in the workplace. If all you master at business school is the art of not getting upset by obnoxious people, you will have almost made the investment pay for itself.
A couple in the same friend’s study group were in a relationship, which apparently made the group dynamics difficult. How best does one deal with that type of situation?
This, again, is good practice for the workplace, where all sorts of people will be in relationships, either covertly or openly. The best policy is to ignore it, as much as you can, though this depends on what they are doing. If they are making out under your noses, or positively drooling at each other, then I would simply ask them to desist and tell them they are making the rest of you feel like gooseberries. But mainly you should enjoy this lovey-dovey phase. Group dynamics are going to get a lot harder to manage when they decide to break up.
I am about to start a MiM programme, and would like to know how much help in finding a job I am entitled to expect from the school.
You aren’t “entitled” to a job handed to you on a platter at the end of your course. However, as people go to business school mainly because it improves their chances of landing a good job, it is hugely in the schools’ interests to do as much as possible to help all students land good jobs when they leave. All the big business schools have an endless procession of top employers visiting them looking for smart people to hire. They also have careers services, resources and references for you to use. There will be plenty of help if you seek it out. But by the time you’ve finished at business school you are expected to be a grown-up. No one is going to mollycoddle you, or hold your hand. If you expect the school to act as your private coach and employment agency, think again.
Lucy Kellaway is an FT associate editor and management columnist and writes the weekly Dear Lucy advice column